If you or someone you love is affected by an addiction to drugs and alcohol, it can be very difficult for you to understand why they’re addicted. Maybe you’ve suggested they go to drug detox and alcohol detox or get some other type of addiction treatment, but they refuse. It is definitely frustrating. However, it might help if you understand the reasons why people become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Knowing this information can empower you to encourage them to get the help they need to recover.
Let’s talk about the top five reasons people use drugs and alcohol and get addicted to these powerful drugs.
1. Using Drugs and Alcohol to Cope with Mental Illness
If you’ve never had a mental illness (such as bipolar disorder, anxiety or depression), then it’s difficult for you to understand the emotional and often physical pain it can cause. Many people use drugs and alcohol in an attempt to help themselves feel better because it actually relieves some of the pain they experience due to their mental illnesses.
It might surprise you to learn that mental health issues and substance abuse often occur together. When this happens, these are called co-occurring disorders. Occasionally, substance abuse can lead to a mental health problem. However, this is usually a more rare situation. More often than not the mental health condition appears first.
There are a lot of examples of how people use drugs and alcohol to cope with mental illnesses. Some of these might include:
- A veteran who uses drugs to deal with symptoms of PTSD
- A young person who drinks to avoid feeling stressed out or anxious
- A college student who uses stimulant drugs to deal with depression
- An overwhelmed mom who uses drugs to help with bipolar disorder symptoms
- A teenager who smokes marijuana to help with symptoms of an eating disorder
What’s really concerning is the fact that mental illnesses so often go undiagnosed. Someone can be living with anxiety or depression for years without knowing that they have them. Perhaps this is the case for you. If it is, it’s not too late for you to get the help you need to recover.
The best way to treat co-occurring disorders is to do so together. In the past, people with these conditions would be treated for them separately. This was found to be ineffective. After going to drug detox, those individuals can actually choose a good drug detox facility that addresses both issues at the same time.
2. Using Alcohol and Drugs to Relieve Stress
Stress is a part of our everyday lives, but some people handle it better than others. Stress can come from relationships that are failing or from poor work situations, along with a variety of other places. In order to relieve their stress, many people turn to drugs and alcohol, even though these substances only provide them with temporary relief. The positive associations they foster with drugs and alcohol will continually drive them back to using again and again.
Stress can affect the body and mind in such a complex way. Physically, the body is designed to react because of certain hormones. This is what is known as the “flight or fight response.” As stress levels become out of control, they can really cause a lot of harm to the body and mind. There are multiple physical symptoms that can result from this. People often experience:
- An increased heart rate
- Digestive problems
Mentally, people will frequently pick up certain “nervous” habits. They may start biting their nails or grinding their teen in response to stress. Eventually, it becomes more than they can handle. As a result, they’ll give in and use substances in an effort to get some relief.
So many studies have liked stress and substance abuse together. People turn to substances because they don’t know how else to cope. Having a high level of stress is a well-known risk factor for drug and alcohol addiction. It can even lead to anxiety or depression as well. It’s important to learn how to manage stress so that you don’t turn to substances.
If you’re already addicted, please be encouraged. The right drug and alcohol treatment can aid in your recovery. It can also help you learn new coping skills to help manage your stress more effectively.
3. Using Prescription Drugs without Fear of Consequences
There is a growing population of people in our country who are becoming addicted to prescription drugs. In most cases, these addictions are entirely accidental. Even though most addictive drugs are marked as addictive on their labels, people will often wrongly assume that they’re safe to take for a long period of time, or that it won’t matter if they increase their dosages. These poor decisions can quickly lead to addictions.
People are frequently surprised that they’ve become addicted to prescription drugs. While many are labeled, a lot of them aren’t, and they’re not required to be by law. Fortunately, drugs like opiate painkillers are starting to be prescribed less and less frequently. This is due to their highly addictive nature.
In many ways, experts believe that women might be more prone to become accidental addicts. This is because of the fact that they receive the majority of the prescribed painkillers in the U.S. They are also much more likely to go to the doctor than men in the first place. In addition to this, many of the conditions that require prescribed drugs are those that affect women more often. Female hormones can also make them more susceptible to getting high on these drugs. Therefore, they might be more tempted to use them and abuse them in the process.
People need to use prescribed drugs with extreme caution. Just because they come from a doctor, that doesn’t mean they’re safe. If anything, it makes them more dangerous than even cocaine and heroin, according to some experts. Prescription drugs are highly addictive, and once you’re addicted, it’s very difficult to stop using.
4. Using Drugs and Alcohol to Find Relief from Painful Memories
It’s also very common for people to use drugs and alcohol to find relief from painful memories. They turn to substances because it gives them a temporary reprieve from experiencing that pain, whether it’s from the loss of a spouse or a child, or it’s from a specific traumatic event that happened during childhood. In fact, some people aren’t even sure what the painful memory is that they’re trying to cover up with drugs and alcohol.
Emotional pain and anguish is very real. Sometimes people use substances in response to childhood sexual abuse. They claim that it helps them to escape those painful memories, even if just for a little while. What they don’t realize is that using substances is likely to only make the problem much worse.
Numbing emotional pain seems like the logical answer for many people with addictions. They don’t know how to deal with it, and if they’re honest, many of them don’t want to. It’s better to pretend like it will go away, and maybe someday that will be the reality. However, addiction often has other plans for people with painful pasts.
Eventually, the emotional pain will return and when it does, it will do so with a vengeance. As soon as people sober up, the pain is like a flood. There will even come a time when using substances is no longer effective at all. At that point, the pain of addiction will cause the person to carry more than double the burden.
Working with an addiction therapist can help to uncover those memories in a healthy way to bring healing. However, drug detox and alcohol detox is always the best first step.
5. Using Increasing Amounts of Drugs and Alcohol to Chase a High
Finally, if you’ve ever been addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, then you probably know that it takes more and more of it for you to feel the “high” you’re looking for. That’s how addiction works, and why people become addicted to drugs and alcohol so easily.
Chasing the first high is something that is common among all types of addictions. For those who are addicted to heroin, they’ll often refer to it as “chasing the dragon.” They’re constantly in a search for the very first feeling they got with their first use. They are also disheartened to learn that there is really no way to experience that again.
Rising tolerance levels is one of the most common signs of addiction. It’s also not something that people experience only one time. They usually find that they periodically need to increase the dosage of the drugs they use. Whether they’re using heroin or alcohol, that fact is the same for all substances.
Sometimes instead of increasing their dosage, they’ll experiment in other ways. For instance, someone who once smoked heroin might begin to inject it instead. Someone who used to simply swallow their prescription pain medications might start chewing them. All of this is in an effort to go after that very first feeling of being high. It’s a terrible cycle, and most people find that they can’t break it on their own.
In order to break that cycle, the body needs to go into detox mode, which is always safest in a controlled drug detox or alcohol detox environment.
Addiction Help is Available for You or Your Loved One
Prior to reading this information, you may have been confused about addiction. Maybe you are worried about your own substance abuse history. Or, perhaps you’re focused more on the drug or alcohol addiction of a loved one. Either way, these are top 5 reasons why people usually abuse substances. If you’re an addict, you’ve probably found your reason on this list.
The question you may have now is, what can you do about it? You might wonder if you’re destined to be an addict for the rest of your life. The good news is that the answer is no. You’re certainly not.
If you or a friend or family member are in need of help with overcoming addiction, drug detox or alcohol detox can help. At NorthPoint Recovery, we want you to know that we understand the pain of addiction, and we can help you find an excellent drug detox or alcohol detox facility.
Also, you should know that detoxification shouldn’t be your final step in the healing process. It’s important to get to the root cause behind your addiction. No matter what it is, you need help understanding it and healing from it.
Recovering from an addiction is difficult, but it’s not impossible when you have help. Do you need to know more? Contact us so we can assist you.